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One of the best things to assist in making your NFL experience in Las Vegas the most enjoyable is entering a few of the many contests around town.

There is a contest to suit just about everyone’s budget and appetite for competition, whether it’s just picking the winner or going against the point spread at high stakes. The common ground for all them is all are massive overlays or have 100% of all entries fees returned.

Unlike other tournaments or contests, such as the World Series of Poker, there is no vig taken out of the Las Vegas football contests. In fact, most of the casinos seed the contests with their own cash and treat it as a marketing expense because there is no time of the year anything is followed so intently with such a broad audience as pro football.

Casino marketing departments figure they are better off giving cash away to their players as an expense rather than fool around with costly advertising campaigns when football has proven to be a winning draw.

For local properties like Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos and the Palms, their contests have proven to be a success just because of the consistent slot play they get from regulars who have to turn their selections in every week.

There is no other promotion in the casino business that can produce repeat business like a football contest consistently does with the dangling carrot of up to $30,000 offered weekly.

While football bettors do play the contests, they aren’t the market the contest is driven for. Those bettors would be in the sports books anyway to bet their games on a weekly basis. No, these contests are driven by the slot players who have become football fans with their weekly no-points contest selections.

It all started over 30 years ago with Michael Gaughan and his Pick-the-Pros contest at the Barbary Coast. Their lead was soon was followed by Palace Station’s Great Giveaway.

The two properties found that the contests were attracting more than just sports bettors. The large prize money offered was crossing over into new territories of people who weren’t necessarily sports fans. Not only did it attract both males and females, but also the fancy of non-casino employees and forced them to make weekly trips.

The brilliant concept has morphed into a gigantic promotion with millions given away in modern day Las Vegas giving football months a steady stream of revenue from slots and table games.

These days the contests are mostly offered by local casinos, but a few of the Strip properties did take up offering them. Most of the season-long contest rewards are enhanced if playing the entire year, which doesn’t help a Strip property too much when 3,000 rooms are being churned weekly with new out-of-town visitors.

And the type of contest play they got wasn’t from slot players, but rather from the “contest man.”

Contest man was the type of person who knew the value of the overlay and got all the social security numbers he could find to enter. He would then round-robin as many entries as he could for the week at each property and turn in hundreds of cards himself. This negates the entire idea of having the contest because the contestants weren’t actually visiting the casino.

It wasn’t hard to miss the multiple contest men running around the city since they wore all the freebie gifts for entering contests as their wardrobe. A common outfit for contest man was Imperial Palace sweat pants, a Circus Circus sweat shirt and a Palace Station cap.

As a ticket writer, I cringed when I saw a contest man come to my window with hundreds of these contest cards, tying up my window for 30 minutes, with lines of real bettors at the other windows. I can even remember some of the contestant names from 18 years ago such as Vanden Bosch; that’s how repetitious it was to still be imprinted in my mind to this day.

About 13 years ago Station Casinos developed an innovative system for their contest, which they still use, running it out of self-service kiosks. The system was beautiful and in dire need. Not only were contest men tying up lines and shutting out cash bettors, but the massive amount of data between the cash bets and the contest cards were overloading the system.

It was pretty common to see sports book systems shutting down on Sunday mornings because of the overload spurred on by the contests.

Boyd Gaming properties now also have kiosks and make it possible for people to enter their free contest, paying out over $500,000 in cash prizes, without having to go to any window. All any participant needs is a player card and they can just swipe themselves in.

Technology and football are a beautiful thing together, as is the millions in guaranteed money waiting for anyone with a minimal investment at several casinos. All you have to do is sign up and turn your selections in. Here’s a brief look at some of the contests around town worth getting into.

Contests entered any time:

Station Casinos Great Giveaway: $25 entry fee, buy two get one free. Requires contestants to pick every Sunday and Monday game straight up, no point spreads. Over $2 million is being given away in weekly and end-of-season prizes, a figure they won’t come close to matching in entry fees, making it a massive overlay.

• Boyd Gaming/Coast Casinos Pick the Pros: No entry fee; everyone with a players card will get three entries. Requires all contestants to pick the Sunday and Monday NFL games straight up with no point spreads. $30,000 in weekly prizes given away for free making it the best value in town.

• Palms Pigskin Payoff: $25 entry fee, buy three get three free. Requires contestants to pick Sunday and Monday NFL games straight up without the spread. Over $300,000 in total prize money is given away, an amount the single property contest won’t come close to getting from entry fees making it a huge overlay. They have unique side contests throughout the season, in addition to the weekly prizes, that are broken into quarters.

• Lucky’s Pro Football Progressive Card: $5 entry fee per card; players can enter as many times as they want into the pool. Should someone pick 16-out-of-16 with no spread, there is a guaranteed $10,000 prize. If no one wins that week, 70% of the entry fees from that week carry over to the following week.


Season long
(early deadline)


• The Cantor Football Contest: $10,000 entry fee, picking five NFL games against the spread each week. 100% of the entry fees returned as prize money. This is the most high-end contest in town.

• The Las Vegas Hilton Super Contest: $1,500 entry fee, picking five games against the spread each week. 100% of the entry fees returned as prize money with an additional $20,000 given away in incentive bonuses. The most prestigious sports handicapping contest in the world.

• Leroy’s Pro Challenge: $250 entry fee, picking five NFL games against the spread. 100% of all entry fees returned as prize money.

• Leroy’s Three-N-Out: $25 entry fee, an elimination contest that requires one NFL selection per week against the spread. All entry fees are returned as prize money.

• Station Casinos Last Man Standing: $25 entry fee, buy four get one free; elimination contest requiring one NFL pick against the spread per week. The last man standing wins the entire pool of entry fees, which has been very chunky.


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